Charity ballgame goes to GOP, 14-7

July 10, 2004|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

BOWIE - History repeated itself Thursday night, and Democrats can only hope it doesn't repeat once again in November.

The Republicans trounced the Democrats 14-7 in this year's Congressional baseball game, as they have eight of the last 10 games.

The annual match - played at the Bowie Baysox's stadium before a record crowd of 4,878 - is put on for fun and the $91,000 made from ticket and skybox sales goes to local charities. But in a presidential election year, nobody in this crowd wants to lose anything, even a baseball game.

It was a perfect evening, at least weather-wise - clear skies, a gentle breeze, bearable humidity. The Top Gun theme song "Danger Zone" blared from stadium speakers to pump up the audience.

In the dugouts, there was no talk of security, al-Qaeda, or the day's vote upholding the Patriot Act. It was all baseball.

"He's not throwing anything reasonable out there, there is no reason we shouldn't be stomping on him," said Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania after batting for the Democrats. "He's throwing curve balls."

But Republicans, supporting pitcher John Shimkus of Illinois, did most of the stomping - they were about 10 runs ahead for most of the game.

Most of the action took place in the second inning, when the Republicans scored 10 runs. The scoreboard, designed for a higher level of play, can't display run totals that exceed a single digit, so it gave the GOP nine runs for the second and advanced them one for the third. The scoreboard easily handled the Democrats' six errors for fumbling easy pop flies and missing throws.

The Republicans caught a few breaks that they didn't even need. As Michael Oxley of Ohio, standing on the side of the field, observed after one iffy throw was called in their favor: "That was an O.J. throw, we got away with it."

The game, which has been played off and on since 1909, calls for seven innings of fast pitch baseball - meaning pitches clocked between 60 mph to 70 mph. A cheerful announcer called out the plays. His help was appreciated - the lawmakers chose their own uniforms and it was difficult to tell who was on which team.

In a tough game, the only highlight for the Democrats came when Linda Sanchez of California batted. She wore a UCLA uniform with the roman numeral IX on the back (a shorthand reference to the law that promotes women's sports in college) and drove a grounder up the center of the field. She advanced to third before the inning ended. But, she had the Democrats in the audience on their feet cheering.

Appropriately, Democratic supporters sat in bleachers overlooking left field, while the Republicans sat on the right wing of the stadium. Fans held up handmade signs and hollered for their favorite players. "Joe Baca, you rocka," chanted supporters of the California Democrat. On the other side Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania led the crowd in a cheer. "G-O-P, G-O-P," they yelled.

The crowd included a few non-playing members of Congress. In a rare moment of bipartisan bonding, two House leaders from opposing parties, Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Tom Delay of Texas, sat together for a few innings on the Republican side of the stadium.

"Steny is over here to negotiate for a few more innings," quipped Delay.

The Democrats did rally toward the end. In the sixth inning they scored three runs and had bases loaded before striking out. It wasn't enough. Still, the Democrats tried to put the best spin on the game.

"At the rate we're coming back, we'll pass them in November," said Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington state.

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